Audrey W. Johnson: Bible Study Ambassador

by Bernard R. DeRemer

Miss Johnson at the dedication of the Bible Study Fellowship headquarters at San Antonio, 1981.Audrey W. Johnson (1907-84), a native of England, grew up in a Christian home but went through a period of agnosticism, due to the influence of secular philosophers. Outwardly, she seemed to enjoy life but inwardly she struggled with quiet despair.

Then "suddenly God's mysterious revelation was given to me. I can only say with Paul, It pleased God to reveal His Son in me.'"1 In tears she joyfully came to know Christ as Savior and began a lifelong love for the Word of God.

After dedicated and diligent private study (a biography reveals no advanced formal education from that point) she sailed for China in 1936 under the China Inland Mission (now Overseas Missionary Fellowship).

During the horrors of World War II, the Japanese interned her with others in huts which were former horse stables. Hers "held 89 cots with six open toilets and two small wash basins Conditions ranged from stifling heat in the summer to freezing cold in the winter."

Food was limited to rice with a one-inch cube of meat daily. As a result "she dropped from 145 lbs. to less than 105." Yet in spite of all the suffering and privation, she recognized and rejoiced in God's providential care.

After the war, she served on the faculty of the China Bible Seminary in Shanghai. However, in 1948 she suffered house arrest by the Communists. Two years later, in the wake of their takeover, she was forced to leave her chosen field.

Audrey settled in California, though her heart was longing for China. At this providential time, five women, already well instructed, asked her to teach them the Bible. "Who hath despised the day of small things?" (Zech. 4:10) and other passages mightily challenged her and she agreed.

She dictated a few simple questions, following the method of study she had adopted after her return from unbelief:

1. What does the passage say?

2. What did it mean to the people in the day it was written?

3. What does it mean to me?"

As a result, the Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) was founded in 1958 at Oakland. The years ahead would see tremendous growth and blessing.

Miss Johnson was "deeply committed to the authority of Scripture. She taught it with power and lived by it in her life and ministry."

Thus began what became her life work. She believed "that God desired personally to impact the life of anyone willing to go alone with Him, to study prayerfully the Bible for himself, and to do whatever the Holy Spirit taught him. The various aspects of BSF were developed to encourage this personal, daily interaction with God through a disciplined study of the Bible, as well as its application."

Her brief time in China had providentially prepared her for this great and growing ministry.

"Though fully occupied with her own organization, she was interested in the work and ministry of others. Her friendship with Francis Schaeffer of L'Abri Fellowship was a source of mutual encouragement. She was a charter member of the Council for Biblical Inerrancy and for a time was the only woman on its board of directors."

Later the work was moved to San Antonio, Texas, after a generous gift of land for the construction of expanded facilities.

Miss Johnson developed cancer, which in spite of treatment and much prayerful intercession, worsened and then claimed her in 1984.

Today BSF has 1,000 classes in 34 countries serving about 225,000 adults and 60,000 children. People from all walks of life, varied cultures, and religious backgrounds attend "to learn the Bible." Information is available from 1-877-273-3228.

Audrey Johnson planned and prepared well. Surely her works do follow her.

1. From "Miss J.," by Gwynn Johnson, in More Than Conquerors; © 1992 Moody Bible Institute; excerpts used by permission.

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